How to Become a Strong Leader?
To be an effective leader, your followers must have trust in you and they need to be sold on your vision.
Korn-Ferry International, an executive search company, performed a survey on what organizations want from their leaders.
The respondents said they wanted people who were both ethical and who convey a strong vision of the future.
In any organization, a leader’s actions set the pace. This behavior wins trust, loyalty, and ensures the organization’s continued vitality.
One of the ways to build trust is to display a good sense of character composed of beliefs, values, skills, and traits (U.S. Army Handbook, 1973):
Beliefs are what we hold dear to us and are rooted deeply within us.
They could be assumptions or convictions that you hold true regarding people, concepts, or things.
They could be the beliefs about life, death, religion, what is good, what is bad, what is human nature, etc.
Values are attitudes about the worth of people, concepts, or things. For example, you might value a good car, home, friendship, personal comfort, or relatives.
Values are important as they influence a person’s behavior to weigh the importance of alternatives.
For example, you might value friends more than privacy, while others might be the opposite.
Skills are the knowledge and abilities that a person gains throughout life. The ability to learn a new skill varies with each individual.
Some skills come almost naturally, while others come only by complete devotion to study and practice.
Traits are distinguishing qualities or characteristics of a person, while character is the sum total of these traits.
There are hundreds of personality traits, far too many to be discussed here. Instead, we will focus on a few that are crucial for a leader.
The more of these you display as a leader, the more your followers will believe and trust in you.
Traits of a Good Leader
Compiled by the Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group:
- Honest — Display sincerity, integrity, and candor in all your actions. Deceptive behavior will not inspire trust.
- Competent — Base your actions on reason and moral principles. Do not make decisions based on childlike emotional desires or feelings.
- Forward-looking — Set goals and have a vision of the future. The vision must be owned throughout the organization. Effective leaders envision what they want and how to get it. They habitually pick priorities stemming from their basic values.
- Inspiring — Display confidence in all that you do. By showing endurance in mental, physical, and spiritual stamina, you will inspire others to reach for new heights. Take charge when necessary.
- Intelligent — Read, study, and seek challenging assignments.
- Fair-minded — Show fair treatment to all people. Prejudice is the enemy of justice. Display empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.
- Broad-minded — Seek out diversity.
- Courageous — Have the perseverance to accomplish a goal, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Display a confident calmness when under stress.
- Straightforward — Use sound judgment to make a good decisions at the right time.
- Imaginative — Make timely and appropriate changes in your thinking, plans, and methods. Show creativity by thinking of new and better goals, ideas, and solutions to problems. Be innovative!
Attributes establish what leaders are, and every leader needs at least three of them (U.S. Army Handbook, 1973):
Establish the ethical framework within an organization.
This demands a commitment to live and defend the climate and culture that you want to permeate your organization.
What you set as an example will soon become the rule as unlike knowledge, ethical behavior is learned more by observing than by listening.
And in fast moving situations, examples become certainty. Being a standard bearer creates trust and openness in your employees, who in turn, fulfill your visions.
Help others learn through teaching, training, and coaching. This creates an exciting place to work and learn.
Never miss an opportunity to teach or learn something new yourself.
Coaching suggests someone who cares enough to get involved by encouraging and developing others who are less experienced.
Employees who work for developers know that they can take risks, learn by making mistakes, and winning in the end.
Orchestrate the many activities that take place throughout an organization by providing a view of the future and the ability to obtain it.
Success can only be achieved when there is a unity of effort.
Integrators have a sixth sense about where problems will occur and make their presence felt during critical times.
They know that their employees do their best when they are left to work within a vision-based framework.
More Leadership Traits
Good leadership is multifaceted, and while different situations may require different leadership styles, certain traits are universally recognized as indicative of effective leadership. Here are some of the most commonly acknowledged traits of good leaders:
- Integrity: Trust is foundational in leadership, and it’s built on consistency and honesty. Leaders with integrity act in accordance with their words and values.
- Vision: Effective leaders have a clear vision of where they want to go, and they can articulate that vision to their team.
- Empathy: Understanding and addressing the feelings and perspectives of others allows leaders to connect with their team on a deeper level.
- Self-awareness: Recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses allows a leader to delegate effectively, seek feedback, and continuously improve.
- Resilience: The ability to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change, and keep going in the face of adversity is crucial for leaders.
- Decisiveness: Leaders are often required to make tough decisions. Being decisive, while also considering the consequences and feedback, is essential.
- Communication Skills: Clearly conveying ideas, giving feedback, and actively listening are all vital components of effective leadership.
- Inspiration: Motivating and inspiring team members to perform at their best and align with the organization’s goals is a hallmark of good leadership.
- Accountability: Taking responsibility for one’s actions and holding others accountable without being punitive fosters a culture of responsibility and trust.
- Adaptability: The ability to adjust to changing circumstances and new information, especially in today’s fast-paced world, is invaluable.
- Continuous Learning: Good leaders seek to expand their knowledge and skills and are open to new ideas and approaches.
- Empowerment: Rather than micromanaging, effective leaders empower their team members, giving them the tools and autonomy to succeed.
- Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Recognizing and understanding emotions in oneself and others, and using this awareness to manage behavior and relationships, is crucial for leadership.
- Problem-solving: Leaders face challenges regularly. The ability to analyze situations, think critically, and find solutions is essential.
- Humility: Recognizing that one doesn’t have all the answers and being open to feedback and collaboration is a sign of a mature leader.
- Courage: Taking risks when necessary and standing up for one’s beliefs or decisions, even in the face of opposition, is a trait of strong leaders.
- Strategic Thinking: Beyond day-to-day tasks, good leaders think long-term and plan for the future.
- Collaboration: Recognizing the value of teamwork and fostering a collaborative environment leads to better results and innovation.
While these traits are commonly associated with effective leadership, it’s essential to understand that leadership is a journey.
Continuous self-reflection, learning, and adaptation are crucial for any leader aiming to improve and adapt to the evolving needs of their team and organization.